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Change my bank? Not on your nelly!

I had a realisation the other day: banks are brilliant. Everyone says they hate banks, but I love them. In fact, I think most people secretly love their bank. They just don’t like to admit it. After all, when did you last change your bank? Not open another bank account, but actually switch your main account. When? I’ve had mine for over twenty years and, like most Brits, am more likely to dump my partner than my bank (the average Brit divorces after 12 years but changes bank only every 17 years).

The reason I had this realisation is my mobile phone provider. I blogged two years ago how much I hated Vodafone, who I had switched to from Virgin. I moved over to EE and now, after another appalling customer service experience with broken promises and rip-off tariffs, I am switching again. That means I will have change mobile provider four times in 15 years. But I haven’t changed my bank once.

Similarly, I’ve recently had a couple of bad in-flight and hotel experiences. I know that I will never fly with that airline or stay in that hotel ever again. Yet, I see no reason to change my bank.

At the heart of this is choice, risk and security. There is choice in telecommunications, airlines and hotels. A lot of choice. There is no risk avoiding or changing provider, and there is little concern over exposing yourself to fraud or loss. Banking is different. People worry a lot about money. For many, it is the dominant force in their lives, especially if they don’t have enough of it.

Therefore, the bank is the choice for storing my money, just above under the mattress.  Once it’s stored securely, why would I move it somewhere else? Better service? Not really, most banks are the same. Better interest rates? Only if I’m a rate tart, which I’m not. Better digital options? Hmmmm … that’s not going to do it.

Banking and money is a psychological affair that is emotional. Most of us just want to store our money securely, and know it won’t be lost. We want payments to go through on time and right every time, and know that we can get it back if a mistake is made. And that’s pretty much it.

So yes, we might change mobile contracts every couple of years, switch broadband providers, change from BA to Emirates, avoid the Doubletree but be happy in the Courtyard, stop going to Morrisons and use Lidl, buy Tesla instead of BMW this time, go Android after iPhone X, watch Netflix instead of Sky and so on and so forth, but change my bank account? Not on your nelly.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  • Simon Farmilo

    Can’t argue with this!

  • Andrew Harper

    Fully agree with the historic and current propensity to change, although the main difference between banks and mobile providers, hotels, cars, phones etc is the relative ease with which a consumer can change. The hassle involved in moving to another bank is far greater and can often lead to the need for an on-site visit or more effort than it’s worth. It’s arguable also that most have felt that banks ‘are all mostly the same’ and therefore the time taken to chance isn’t worth the hassle. Technology, regulation and an increased pressure on banks to differentiate are changing this trend though, where the ease of swapping banks will be no different to that of a mobile phone provider. That’s where the magic will happen for all!

  • Nick Bush

    Spot on. When what banks are offering is seen as a utility and they don’t do anything wrong like lose your money then you won’t want to move. That’s why measures like Net Promoter Score don’t work that well for banks because there’s nothing that distinctive that they do that would make you care enough to recommend them to your (somewhat imaginary IMO) friends and family.

  • Simon

    There’s a new barrier to moving panks: the banks online portals. Each one of them is different so I really really don’t want to take on the overhead of learning another one with new customer-hostile security measures and new places to hide the parts of their system I want to access.
    In fact this technology is such a barrier to moving that when I opened another account for a new business I’m starting, my only thought was to go back to the same old bank I’ve been using since I was at University, life is just toooo short to learn the quirks of another portal.
    So a message to all those bankers out there: whichever branches you close, whichever portals you offer … make sure you catch the undergraduates!

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